Select Committee on Religious Offences in England and Wales Written Evidence

Submission from Strict Baptist Chapel, Croydon

  A.  1.  We worship at Tamworth Road Strict Baptist Chapel which is the oldest place of worship in Croydon apart from the parish church and the Quakers. Started in 1721 a faithful witness has been maintained to Holy Scripture as the Word of God. Although not so many meet as formerly a Sunday School is also maintained. We are concerned at the decreasing standards in our land made worse by the media and lack of true Christian standards in ecclesiastical and political leaders. We fear the proposed Bill will make matters worse. It sends out the wrong signals.

  2.  Blasphemy has been defined as showing contempt for the Divine Being, the Almighty God or in the utterance of profanities or curses. The need for existing Acts punishing the crime of Blasphemy was exemplified 20 or so years ago when Mary Whitehouse (a lady unknown to us) as a Christian felt she had to bring a prosecution for Blasphemy as the Attorney General of the day chickened out and refused to prosecute. The Jury and the Court found in her favour and convicted the offender. In another case Lord Denning, Master of the Rolls directed the Director of Public Prosecutions (who had earlier refused to take the case) to take over the prosecution from Mary Whitehouse and use the Blasphemy Acts. In our view it is a disappointing state of affairs that paid government lawyers should abdicate their responsibilities and leave it to a private individual to establish the law.

  3.  Mary Whitehouse who has recently died aged 90 detailed some of her trials in her book "Quite Contrary" (Sidgwick and Jackson) and explained some of the failures of "Watchdogs" to supervise Blasphemy and other crimes. This is an illuminating book and is no doubt available in House of Lords Library. We are persuaded the media is getting worse and is likely to get more so as time goes on. This is foretold in Holy Scripture—for example "Evil men and seducers shall get worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived" (1 Tim. 3:13). Furthermore it is declared "There is no fear of God before their eyes (Romans 3:18) "The heart is deceitful and desperately wicked and who can know it?" (Jer. 17.9). We are deceiving ourselves if we think all sanctions work—for example in yesterday's Daily Telegraph there was an item "Straw Dogs—which includes violent rape scenes, has been passed uncut for censors for video release (by) the British Board of Film Classifications"! For all these reasons especially that the wickedness of the human heart ensures that no sanction is fully effective, we ask that the proposed Bill should not be allowed to proceed.

  4.  As an example of removing laws aimed to prevent Blasphemy and other evils the question was asked in the Commons—what would happen to a Presbyterian who believed the Pope was the "anti-Christ" mentioned in the Holy Scriptures? It should be pointed out that it is not only the Presbyterians who believe the Pope (or papal system) to be the "anti-Christ" foretold in the Scriptures (1 Thes. 2.1/13) but Christians of most Denominations have so expressed themselves in the past. For example the learned Christopher Wordsworth (Bishop of Lincoln) in a striking booklet 120 years ago "Is the Papacy predicted by St Paul?" (republished in 1985 by the Harrison Trust, PO Box 47, Ramsgate, Kent CT11 9XB and still available) charged the Roman papacy as the anti-Christ of Scripture although he did not rule out further developments of evil. He said "I am inclined to believe that the Roman papacy will develop itself into something worse". At Her Majesty's Coronation in June 1953 a Bible was handed to Her Majesty with the words " . . . the most valuable thing which this world affords . . . Here is Widsom: This is the royal law; these are the lively Oracles of God". We are convinced that we depart from the Bible, the Word of God at our peril.

  B.  1.  The other issue as to whether a new criminal offence of inciting to religious hatred should be created we are quite firmly of the opinion (based on a life-long study of the Holy Scriptures) that it should not be. We think it would be highly dangerous. True Christians must ever contend in love for the words of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself "I am the way . . . (to heaven) no man cometh unto the Father but by me" (John 14.6). Nothing and no one can take the place of the Lord Jesus Christ.

  2.  Our protestant laws, based on the Bible, including the Act of Settlement and others have been the means of preserving the liberty of the subject and the freedom of religion for over 300 years (whether realised or not) and we firmly believe they should remain. It would be wrong to abolish them without putting something better in their place and as by all accounts there is unlikely to be complete agreement we think existing laws should remain. The speech of the present Lord Chancellor in Parliament yesterday confirms our view. As reported he said:

    "Where legislation could have far reaching effects on our historic constitutional arrangements, both in the UK and in the Commonwealth, it is a good principle. I would recommend to consider legislative change only (where it can be maintained that there is a clear and pressing need for change" (Daily Telegraph, 3 July 2002).

3 July 2002

previous page contents next page

House of Lords home page Parliament home page House of Commons home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2003